There’s a reason you keep hearing the phrase “sitting is the new smoking.” Like smoking, chronic sitting is a nasty habit. Thanks to a decades-long public health and information campaign, the number of Americans who smoke cigarettes is in rapid decline. The same kind of information offensive is now being launched against sitting disease, and the facts are chilling. In fact, so much time is spent on the problem it’s hard to keep track of all the information to truly understand the full scope. So, here’s a quick rundown of all the reasons you need to quit your sitting habit.
- Chronic Disease: People who sit a lot tend to die earlier. Excessive sitting is associated with premature mortality from all causes, and the development of the “big three” killer diseases: heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
- Obesity and Weight Gain: Calorie burning and fat metabolism practically shut down when you sit for too long, which can lead to conditions like metabolic syndrome and type II diabetes.
- Back Pain: Excessive sitting can lead to or exacerbate chronic back and neck pain. Our bodies aren’t meant to remain in any static position for hours at a time.
- Depression: Too little physical activity not only leads to current depressive symptoms, but also increases the likelihood of future symptoms.
- Low Energy and Productivity: Sitting may be the reason for your afternoon slump. Many standing desk users report an increase in energy, focus and productivity. Even physically fit people are vulnerable to these health hazards.
The only way to effectively combat sitting disease is to interrupt sitting regularly. A modest change is all you need—simply standing up or taking a quick walk will do the trick. At the very least, try to take one 10 – 30-minute break for every hour of sitting.
Victoria University and University of Queensland
Researchers from Victoria University and University of Queensland in Australia analyzed the survey responses of 8,950 women over several years, looking for associations among all three areas. They found that those who sat more than 7 hours a day had a 47% higher risk for current depressive symptoms than women who for less than 4 hours a day. Women who did no physical activity had a 99% higher risk for developing depressive symptoms than those who met moderate exercise guidelines, and those who sat for multiple hours and got no exercise were three times more likely to have depressive symptoms than women who sat less and exercised more.
The authors noted that sitting disease was associated with current signs of depression, while inactivity made future depressive symptoms more likely. “Increasing physical activity … can alleviate current depression symptoms and prevent future symptoms in mid-aged women,” wrote the researchers in their paper. “Reducing sitting time may ameliorate current symptoms.”
Periodic standing reduces the risk of a host of problems
Including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, metabolic disorder, and even some cancers. When we sit too long, everything in our bodies slows down. It’s harder to clear fats from blood, to process insulin, to keep muscles active and spines flexible, leading to soreness and possible organ damage. Even our mental functions slow because we’re not moving enough to pump much blood to the brain.
Periodic standing allows for movement that alleviates all these problems and helps prevent the diseases associated with them. In fact, according to the University of Leicester, reducing overall sedentary time is more important than incorporating vigorous exercise in preventing diabetes. This finding was repeated by the University of Missouri , which also included obesity, metabolic syndrome, and heart disease among the diseases that can be improved and prevented with regular, small movement throughout the day. You are better off moving throughout the day than you are going to the gym for one big workout.
The need for standing desks
When your back gets stiff or sore, you move to a new position. When you’re tired, you get up and walk around the office. When you’re stiff from sitting, you stand up and stretch. When you’re trying to brainstorm or solve a problem, you move around. A sit-stand desk just makes it easier, faster, and more convenient. It also increases your productivity because you’re still at your desk as you move up and down. There’s research to back this up as well. One study shows that standing while working improves collaboration and encourages creativity. And another reported that 82 percent of participants indicated a preference for height-adjustable desks over fixed work surfaces, finding that they decreased pain and increased productivity.
Standing while you work and incorporating subtle movement increases your energy, since it improves blood flow and brain activity. Top companies like Google and Exxon provide standing desks to their employees, because they’re concerned about their workers’ health—and one reason is because they also know a height adjustable standing desk fosters improved performance.